President Joe Biden will address the nation in a prime-time speech Friday after Congress averted an economically disastrous default by just days by passing legislation to raise the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.
The president is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Eastern in what will be his first Oval Office address.
Biden is expected to tout the deal he made with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as a win for American families, and proof of his ability to compromise to keep the nation on track, themes he’s using in his 2024 reelection campaign.
“Our work is far from finished, but this agreement is a critical step forward, and a reminder of what’s possible when we act in the best interests of our country,” Biden said after Senate passage of the measure late Thursday, something of an echo of his 2024 announcement asking voters to give him more time to “finish this job.”
The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the result of months of back-and-forth between Biden and McCarthy. It lifts the debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025, in exchange for some cuts to federal spending.
Biden said he will sign the bill as soon as possible, putting an end to weeks of anxiety that the nation would nosedive into economic turmoil by not being able to pay all its bills, including Social Security or Medicaid benefits, on time and in full for the first time in history.
As Biden worked behind-the-scenes to hammer out the deal, he at times frustrated Democrats — the progressive wing, especially — who worried about him giving too much ground to Republican demands.
At one point, several in his party urged him to go it alone and use the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, an idea Biden ultimately rejected in this situation, but one he said he would study.
“I have been clear that the only path forward is a bipartisan compromise that can earn the support of both parties,” he said earlier this week. “This agreement meets that test.”
The final product did give both Democrats and Republicans something to celebrate: the White House touted the protection of key priorities and legislative accomplishments while McCarthy sold it to his caucus as much-needed reining in of government spending.
“I wanted to make history,” McCarthy said as he took a victory lap after the House passed the bill. “I wanted to do something no other Congress has done, that we would literally turn the ship and for the first time in quite some time, we’d spend less than we spent the year before. Tonight, we all made history.”
Moderates from both parties gave the bill its necessary stamp of approval in the House and Senate, but in the end more congressional Democrats voted for the bill than Republicans.
“Democrats are feeling very good tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., triumphantly said after Thursday’s vote. “We’ve saved the country from the scourge of default.”
Schumer contended Democrats “beat back the worst of the Republican agenda” including deeper spending cuts that would’ve dismantled parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, taken people off federal aid and blocked Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
Biden, though, struck a more conciliatory tone as he first praised senators from “both parties” for protecting “the hard-earned economic progress we have made” and avoiding default.
“Together, they demonstrated once more that America is a nation that pays its bills and meets its obligations — and always will be,” he said before highlighting some of the Democratic priorities preserved in the bill.
“It safeguards peoples’ health care and retirement security, protecting bedrock programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” he said. “It protects vital investments in hardworking families that help make our country strong—from child care and education, to public safety and Meals on Wheels. It protects my student debt relief plan for hardworking borrowers. And it honors America’s sacred obligation to our veterans by fully funding veterans’ medical care.”